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Judges 8:10-17

10 Now Zebah and Zalmunna were in Karkor, and their [h]armies with them, about 15,000 men, all who were left of the entire [i]army of the sons of the east; for the fallen were 120,000 [j]swordsmen. 11 Gideon went up by the way of those who lived in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah, and [k]attacked the camp when the camp was [l]unsuspecting. 12 When Zebah and Zalmunna fled, he pursued them and captured the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and routed the whole [m]army.

13 Then Gideon the son of Joash returned from the battle [n]by the ascent of Heres. 14 And he captured a youth [o]from Succoth and questioned him. Then the youth wrote down for him the princes of Succoth and its elders, seventy-seven men. 15 He came to the men of Succoth and said, “Behold Zebah and Zalmunna, concerning whom you taunted me, saying, ‘[p]Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hand, that we should give bread to your men who are weary?’” 16 He took the elders of the city, and thorns of the wilderness and briers, and he [q]disciplined the men of Succoth with them. 17 He tore down the tower of Penuel and killed the men of the city.

There is a contrast here, although it may not be obvious. We first see Gideon attacking a camp of 15,000 menu. Sure, they’ve already dispatched 120,000 swordsmen, with the help of those who rallied in response to his call.

But here he is, with the original 300 men, taking on 15,000 men. Gideon had forgotten his timidity, and knew the Lord was on his side. Whatever you might say about Gideon, he was not a coward. He was fearful (for good reason), but when he knew God would help him against insurmountable odds, Gideon stood strong.

The elders of Succoth, however, were a bit different. Why didn’t they help Gideon the first time? Because they were afraid, didn’t trust in the Lord, and were flat out cowards who had taken on the robes of princes.

How is it, that a town which has seventy-seven princes and elders, stands by while an outsider flogs those seventy-seven with thorns and briers? I suspect it was because they knew the sort of men who had taken on the mantle of power in their town, and they despised them for their cowardice.

What kind of person are you? So afraid that you won’t even listen when God calls? When God calls, be bold and fearless, and don’t let the naysayers hold you back.

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Judges 8:1-9

Zebah and Zalmunna Routed

Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this thing you have done to us, not calling us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they contended with him vigorously. But he said to them, “What have I done now in comparison with you? Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? God has given the leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb into your hands; and what was I able to do in comparison with you?” Then their [a]anger toward him subsided when he said [b]that.

Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. He said to the men of Succoth, “Please give loaves of bread to the people who are following me, for they are weary, and I am pursuing Zebah and Zalmunna, the kings of Midian.” The leaders of Succoth said, “[c]Are the hands of Zebah and Zalmunna already in your hands, that we should give bread to your army?” Gideon said, “[d]All right, when the Lord has given Zebah and Zalmunna into my hand, then I will [e]thrash your [f]bodies with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers.” He went up from there to [g]Penuel and spoke similarly to them; and the men of Penuel answered him just as the men of Succoth had answered. So he spoke also to the men of Penuel, saying, “When I return safely, I will tear down this tower.”

When God gives you success, get ready for trouble. You’ll have those who are jealous, and those who ought to help but won’t, and any number of other odd reactions.

We as human beings aren’t very great at being gracious when someone else is having (what seems to be) more success than we are. That’s crazy, those are exactly the sort of people we should be gracious to. Now, I’m not talking about brown-nosing, weaselly, flattery. And really, we should be gracious to all men. But when someone else finds blessings from God, be thankful, celebrate with them, and don’t be a sore loser!

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Judges 7:19-25

Confusion of the Enemy

19 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just posted the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the pitchers that were in their hands. 20 When the three [o]companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each stood in his place around the camp; and all the [p]army ran, crying out as they fled. 22 When they blew 300 trumpets, the Lord set the sword of one against another even throughout the whole [q]army; and the [r]army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the edge of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. 23 The men of Israel were summoned from Naphtali and Asher and all Manasseh, and they pursued Midian.

24 Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down [s]against Midian and take the waters before them, as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.” So all the men of Ephraim were summoned and they took the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan. 25 They captured the two leaders of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb, and they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and they killed Zeeb at the wine press of Zeeb, while they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon from across the Jordan.

Now, we don’t know for sure who came up with the idea to use trumpets and torches, but Gideon seems to have a knack for the unexpected. Of course, anything good is from God, so you could say God gave Gideon the thought either way.

But if we really believe God knew what He was doing (and He does), then it’s not shocking to see Gideon come through in the clutch. Gideon was clever, and had been good at avoiding detection by the enemy. We just saw him sneak into the enemy camp undetected!

So when it came time for battle, a full frontal assault would not do. The enemy would have laughed and knocked down all 300 men in a minute. Gideon had to get creative, and use what they had: pitchers and trumpets. With only 300 men, I suspect it was no problem to find enough of those left behind by the 30,000 that gathered originally.

To see the results though, that had to be pretty amazing, and in the end, all the glory belongs to God for knowing exactly who to choose as a leader, and for giving Israel the victory through the least of the least of the least.

You might feel pretty “least”, but God knows who you really are. He even knows things about you that you might not know yet. Choose to follow God, and you might just end up with a surprise or two!

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Judges 7:9-18

Now the same night it came about that the Lord said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hands. 10 But if you are afraid to go down, go with Purah your servant down to the camp, 11 and you will hear what they say; and afterward your hands will be strengthened that you may go down against the camp.” So he went with Purah his servant down to the [i]outposts of the army that was in the camp. 12 Now the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the sons of the east were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. 13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was relating a dream to his friend. And he said, “Behold, I [j]had a dream; [k]a loaf of barley bread was tumbling into the camp of Midian, and it came to the tent and struck it so that it fell, and turned it [l]upside down so that the tent lay flat.” 14 His friend replied, “This is nothing less than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given Midian and all the camp into his hand.”

15 When Gideon heard the account of the dream and its interpretation, he bowed in worship. He returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the camp of Midian into your hands.” 16 He divided the 300 men into three [m]companies, and he put trumpets and empty pitchers into the hands of all of them, with torches inside the pitchers. 17 He said to them, “Look at me and do likewise. And behold, when I come to the outskirts of the camp, [n]do as I do. 18 When I and all who are with me blow the trumpet, then you also blow the trumpets all around the camp and say, ‘For the Lord and for Gideon.’”

God knows our weakness, and He knows our doubts. Without Gideon saying anything more, God knew he was nervous about taking 300 men to defeat an army “numerous as the sand on the seashore.”

So He gives Gideon encouragement by way of the very enemies he is to fight. Can you imagine sneaking into the camp, the nerves on edge, only to find out your enemies were having dreams about you knocking them flat? What a relief and a huge confidence boost that must have been for Gideon.

Rest assured, whatever you struggle with, God knows it. He cares more about you than anyone ever will, and He wants to help you with your weakness. God wants to be the strength in your weakness, to show you that He can do great things through you. Trust Him, even when you feel weak, and remember that when He calls you, He calls you knowing all your strengths and weaknesses already.

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Judges 7:1-8

Gideon’s 300 Chosen Men

Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him, rose early and camped beside [a]the spring of Harod; and the camp of Midian was on the north side of [b]them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel [c]would become boastful, saying, ‘My own [d]power has delivered me.’ Now therefore [e]come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.

Then the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water and I will test them for you there. Therefore it shall be that he of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go with you; but everyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “You shall separate everyone who laps the water with his tongue as a dog laps, as well as everyone who kneels to drink.” Now the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was 300 men; but all the rest of the people kneeled to drink water. The Lord said to Gideon, “I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped and will give the Midianites into your hands; so let all the other people go, each man to his [f]home.” So [g]the 300 men took the people’s provisions and their trumpets into their hands. And [h]Gideon sent all the other men of Israel, each to his tent, but retained the 300 men; and the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

When there is someone who seems to want all the attention for doing great things, we sometimes call them a “glory hog”. It seems from this passage that God is a “glory hog”, but it’s in a good way. First, He deserves it. Every victory, all our strength, our very life breath, is from Him.

But secondly, it protects us from pride. The vice of pride is a deadly trap, one that we fall into far too easily. As Solomon said, it goes before a fall and destruction, and that’s not something any of us wants in our lives.

We see this in professional sports also. When a team gets a bit too big for their britches, they crumble and fall apart. They got to thinking they were so much better than the other team, forgetting that the other team is full of professionals also, and then they get beat, sometimes shamefully.

So when you achieve something grand, and have great success, or even in the small triumphs of life, remember Him. Remember that God is the source of everything good in your life. Remember to give Him credit, to give glory to whom it is due. And definitely don’t be a “glory hog”, it could be your downfall. Besides, that’s God’s job!

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Judges 6:36-40

Sign of the Fleece

36 Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel [v]through me, as You have spoken, 37 behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel [w]through me, as You have spoken.” 38 And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” 40 God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.

This seems a bit late in the game for Gideon to be “testing” God. He’s already seen meat and bread consumed by fire, already tore down the Baal and Asherah, already summoned an army, and now He wants to see another sign.

But God doesn’t say, “what, are you crazy?” God answers Gideon’s request, even when he asks a second time. In our lives, I believe there is some wisdom here. In the things that are going to change the course of our lives, it’s important to be following God’s call, listening for His voice, and choosing His way.

It’s important to know if something is just what you made up, and think you want to do, or if it’s really what God has planned for you. While God might not make a fleece wet for you, there’s no harm in asking for confirmation. In fact, I think we could easily say there is more often harm when we don’t, and we run off “half-cocked.”

When you feel God calling you to something, take time to think and pray about it, and don’t be afraid to ask Him for confirmation in some way. But when He does call, don’t be afraid to move forward like Gideon did.

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Judges 6:28-35

The Altar of Baal Destroyed

28 When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. 29 They said to one another, “Who did this thing?” And when they searched about and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.” 30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will [t]plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” 32 Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar.

33 Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel. 34 So the Spirit of the Lord [u]came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him. 35 He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.

It’s difficult to say if Joash (Gideon’s father) was thoroughly convinced that his son wasn’t crazy for tearing down the altar and the Asherah. But he loved his son, and wasn’t about to let the mob get to him.

In any case, he puts Baal to the test, and says, if Baal really is a god, he can take care of this matter himself. Obviously, Baal is a no show, and their family seemed to gain a bit of notoriety from the ordeal. When Gideon blows the trumpet, men flock to him.

Gideon, with all his timidity, gained respect from his family and countrymen by following God, even if it scared him to death. When we follow God, we can trust in Him, no matter what happens. As Esther said, “If I perish, I perish…” Even in the “worst”, to die is gain, and being re-united with our Creator is the ultimate prize for putting our faith in Him.

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Judges 6:11-27

Gideon Is Visited

11 Then the angel of the Lord came and sat under the [f]oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. 12 The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” 13 Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14 The Lord [g]looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” 15 He said to Him, “O Lord, [h]how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” 16 But the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall [i]defeat Midian as one man.” 17 So [j]Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me. 18 Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.”

19 Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an [k]ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket [l]and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the [m]oak and presented them20 The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the Lord [n]vanished from his sight. 22 When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the Lord, [o]he said, “Alas, O Lord [p]God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 The Lord said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and named it [q]The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

25 Now on the same night the Lord said to him, “Take your father’s bull [r]and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the [s]Asherah that is beside it; 26 and build an altar to the Lord your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” 27 Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the Lord had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night.

I’ve heard plenty of sermons about when Gideon tested the Lord with the fleece, but we sometimes forget that this was a recurring theme with Gideon. When he first met the angel, Gideon didn’t believe he was from God, and asked him to prove it.

The angel sets meat and bread on fire, and yet Gideon is still timid, and will later ask for more signs. But before we go heaping condemnation on Gideon for being a man of little faith, we should look at it as encouragement for us. For the “average Joe”, or even those who feel themselves “less than average”.

Gideon saw himself as the least of all the Israelites. He was the youngest male in what he saw as the weakest family in the entire tribe. And while he doesn’t explicitly say this, it seems that he even viewed his tribe as being one of the least of all Israel. At any rate, he had a very low opinion of himself.

God isn’t interested in human calculations though, He has his own measures, and He knows who can do the task at hand, and He doesn’t often choose the “most likely to succeed”. In fact, God has a plan for everyone, for the strong as well as the weak. He designed you the way you are on purpose. God gives each of us things we are gifted in, or things we are passionate about. Don’t be ashamed of your gifts, put them to use, and let God take care of the rest.

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Judges 6:1-10

Israel Oppressed by Midian

Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years. The [a]power of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of Midian the sons of Israel made for themselves the dens which were in the mountains and the caves and the strongholds. For it was when Israel had sown, that the Midianites would come up with the Amalekites and the sons of the east and [b]go against them. So they would camp against them and destroy the produce of the earth [c]as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, they would come in like locusts for number, both they and their camels were innumerable; and they came into the land to devastate it. So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.

Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord on account of Midian, that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of [d]slavery. I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, 10 and I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not [e]obeyed Me.”’”

It’s interesting how fickle the Israelites were, but also how gracious God was. Though He allowed their land to be devastated because of their sin, He was under no obligation to remind them why they were suffering.

But He does tell them exactly what is going on. God sends a prophet to tell them exactly why their current sufferings are happening. This also serves as a reminder that not all “pain” or “suffering” is because of our sin. But all of our pain & suffering can and will be used by God to bring about His will in our lives… if we are willing to pay attention to Him.

When life seems like crap, and the world seems to have “gone to the dogs”, look to God and find hope and peace. He’s in control, and He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him and follow Him. In other words, He won’t let your suffering go to waste. So trust that God knows what to do, and follow Him no matter what life brings your way.

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Judges 5:28-31

28 “Out of the window she looked and lamented,
The mother of Sisera through the [r]lattice,
‘Why does his chariot delay in coming?
Why do the [s]hoofbeats of his chariots tarry?’
29 “Her wise princesses would answer her,
Indeed she repeats her words to herself,
30 ‘Are they not finding, are they not dividing the spoil?
A maiden, two maidens for every warrior;
To Sisera a spoil of dyed work,
A spoil of dyed work embroidered,
Dyed work of double embroidery on the [t]neck of the spoiler?’
31 “Thus let all Your enemies perish, O Lord;
But let those who love Him be like the rising of the sun in its might.”

And the land was undisturbed for forty years.

The people of Sisera were focused on the physical/material world. Dividing the spoil and women, searching for valuable items in the belongings of those they had destroyed.

Those things are as dust, when we die, they are no comfort, and often riches will forsake us before we even get that far. Instead, we are to trust in God, to put our hope and our future in Him.

Then we will know that our future is not ultimately of this world. Any strength we might have in this world will pale in comparison to the glory of eternity spent with our Savior, and the fullness of life that we will experience when we ourselves are restored to their intended (and original) state.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and the things of this earth will go strangely dim…